Etiquette for confronting dead men

by Kristine Ong Muslim
Remember that all dead men were once human, too;
they paid and cheated on taxes, 
put food on the table,
gave tips to the doorman and the cab driver,
and bought a lottery ticket while imagining 
the same dreams as you had.
If a dead man approaches you and asks you
for something, like taking over your body
or borrowing a limb to replace his mutilated left arm,
tell him to say "please" then politely decline.
Do not swear or use words that are associated
with mommy dogs or bodily functions.
Disfigurement has always been a matter of perspective;
all his facial parts that are falling away 
may look attractive to another. 
You must understand that the aftermath of rigor mortis
is traumatic; nobody has ever come back from it alive.
So never shout at a dead man or point at his falling nose.
Never talk to your companion about him 
as if he were not in the room.
Never insult his apparent lack of hygiene.
With a subtle bedroom voice, one must motivate 
a dead man to go towards the light. 
If he can't find one, then there is a chance that he is color blind. 
While confronting a dead man about his mortality,
he may develop a rapport towards you.
You can take him home, 
make him mow the lawn
in exchange for shelter.
Introduce him to your mother
but never ever to your dog.

 2006 by Kristine Ong Muslim. All rights reserved.

Kristine Ong Muslim's stories and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in more than 100 journals and magazines. These include Adbusters, Bellevue Literary Review, Chronogram, Cordite Poetry Review, elimae, Envoi, 4AM Poetry Review, The Houston Literary Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Tipton Poetry Journal, and turnrow.